Therapy Services in Educational Environments

The following lists are very brief overviews of the influences on occupational therapy services for children in educational environments. Services by occupational therapists in clinical settings (community-based) may be confused with school-based services especially by insurance providers. A child with a disability can benefit from receiving both school-based and community-based services when needs are present in multiple environments, such as home, community and school.

Points on Special Education

• Federal law and state guidelines for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) influence a school’s decision for a student to qualify in receiving special education services.
• Since 1975, legislation is frequently reauthorized yet ensures that children with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education beginning at age 3. From birth to age 3, infants and toddlers with a disability can receive therapy as a primary service.
• Referrals for an evaluation to determine if a student has a disability can be placed by parents, guardians, teachers, administrators, and doctors.
• Parental consent must be given to conduct an evaluation.
• Parents are equal team members with the educational staff conducting the evaluation.
• If a student is determined eligible to receive special education, the parents and educational staff create a plan (IEP-individual education plan) which specifies accommodations/modifications, special factors, annual goals, and service personnel.
• School-based occupational therapy services provide assistance to the student and team members when expertise is needed for academic, behavioral, functional, and post-secondary outcomes.
• Students with disabilities, as well as all students, are expected to be prepared for further education, employment and independent living when they graduate from high school. Federal law allows students with disabilities to receive support to the age of 21 through the public education system for this transition stage.
• Transition planning begins as early as age 14, but no later than age 16. It is a coordinated set of activities designed to support a student’s movement into post-school activities.
• School-based occupational therapy can provide support for academic, vocational, and independent living goals during the transition process.

Points on School-based Occupational Therapy
• It’s a supportive service of special education
• Promotes the engagement of students in the participation of learning, playing and socializing within the educational setting
• Has an awareness of the general education curriculum, the different physical environments and the school’s expectations of students
• The process of evaluation focuses on identifying student strengths and problem areas that occur in the natural school environment.
• Service delivery is a dynamic interaction with teachers, students and parents for the process of evaluation, intervention and determining successful outcomes
• Recognizes what is meaningful to the student to discover the best fit of student-environment-task
• Can be accessed through a 504 plan
• Is a resource for teachers who seek early intervening assistance for at-risk students
• Can provide in service presentations to parents, teachers and school staff
• Can coordinate with community-based/clinical occupational therapists

Points on Community-based/Clinical Pediatric Occupational Therapy
• Services children and families for concerns beyond the school day
• Has experience with children who have disabilities, serious injuries, behavioral health concerns
• Usually specializes in treatment such as sensory integration, behavior management, physical rehabilitation, vision therapy
• Conducts an evaluation, makes a treatment plan with goals and determines when outcomes have been reached (similar to school-based occupational therapy)
• Referrals usually are from your child’s physician, social worker, psychologist, or from a school-based occupational therapist
• Payment is generally through your insurance

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